We didn’t say “trick or treat” or dress up in scary costume. The days after Durga Pujo were for visiting all our neighbours and showing them Pranam ( respect ). Just doing that would mean we would be treated with delicious snacks or dessert or even a full meal. It was not just an evening either. You had about a whole week for that. It was no surprise that we played our cards right. We would sit down with our friends to make a fool proof plan. We divided the neighbourhood houses into different zones. A couple in the morning a couple in the evening. Any ‘insider information’ on the nature of snack offered in a particular house could alter our plan accordingly. How I remember those fun filled days…
Durga Puja is celebrated in India around September or October. Godess Durga is Shakti ( power). She emerges victorious after her fights with the demon Mahishashur. Now that is a reason to celebrate. The festivities goes on for nine days. New clothes, no studies, fasting and feasting are the hallmark of Durgapujo. Even the weather cooperates with mild temperatures making it a magical time of the year.
Nobody made sweets like Bowneer Thakuma ( Bownee’s Granma ). Be it one dunked in syrup or just dry Barfi ( fudge ). Her house was on our ‘priority list.’ Oma dekhi kawto bawro holi, O my look how much you’ve grown, she said adjusting the end of her sari which had a bunch of keys tied to it. Always in crisp white sari with no border she savoured the moments as she watched us savour her sweets. Too young to worry about why she wore only crisp white, we licked our plates clean. It was much later that I found out that it was the societies requirement that she be dressed in a particular way or change her eating habits just because her husband was no more. How this cruel societal bias could never take away the smile from her crinkly face, the love to go through the elaborate cooking to see others happy, amazed me.
Kalakand or milk fudge is usually done from whole milk in India. It usually takes hours over slow flame to get it right. Thanks to Ricotta cheese, making Kalakand can be a breeze now.
Ricotta cheese Saputo light 500gm tub.
Condensed milk Eagle brand 300 ml tin.
Pistachio nuts Handful Chopped.
Cardamom powder One eighth tsp
Empty the cheese in a cheese cloth and let it drain for about half hour. Now mix this cheese and condensed milk in a microwave safe deep bowl. Cover and cook for 5 minutes on high. Stir and let it sit for two minutes. Repeat the process again for 5 minutes. Stir and let it sit for two minutes. This time cook for one minute intervals, stirring in between for a total 10 minutes. Add the cardamom powder. Mix well.
Transfer this to a greased square pan. Make square cuts so that the pieces are about an inch square. Refrigerate for half hour. Garnish with chopped pistachio nuts and serve.
The aim of the above procedure is to achieve a soft dough. The time of cooking can be used as a guide, depending on the humidity, brand of cheese, it may need to be tweaked a bit.
The mixture tends to sputter, so cover it with a microwave cover with vents.
The final result is a granular texture as shown in the picture, not creamy and smooth.
Traditionally Kalakand is not too sweet. It is ok to play with the amount of condensed milk in the recipe.
I wouldn’t slack on stirring as it prevents the milk solids from sticking to the pan.